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The TV Column: Experts - lots of them - weigh in on Charlie Sheen

By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 8:51 PM

Like the sight of relief workers pouring into devastated areas, nothing so heartens reporters chronicling the gut-wrenching story of a Hollywood celebrity crackup as the sight of e-mails streaming in to offer unsolicited assistance in the form of easy quotes from academics, lawyers, and other aspiring talking heads.

And so it has been for the past several days since the Charlie Sheen story blew up:

Hi Lisa,

Charlie Sheen got FIRED from his show. Sad!

So wrote an emissary for Fordham University media professor Paul Levinson, who was making his services available "TONIGHT or tomorrow to discuss the outcome" of the Monday firing of the "Two and a Half Men" star.

"CBS's firing Charlie Sheen is definitely CBS's loss and may be Charlie Sheen's gain," Levinson offered to discuss with us, without us even having to ask.

It was such an act of selflessness, we didn't have the heart to point out that CBS did not fire Charlie Sheen - Warner Bros. Television, which produces "Men," fired him. One does not quibble about accuracy at moments like this.

"With his popularity and notability now at an all-time high, going back to [the] confines of even a hit television show might not have been the best move for Sheen," Levinson continued as, after a brief struggle - like that of a wild creature who, while wandering through the underbrush, steps into a metal leg trap - we became resigned to hearing him out.

"As for CBS, to fire someone on the basis of currently unsubstantiated charges - about his fitness as a parent, and whether he is free of drug use - is dishonorable in any case," Levinson said, before his publicist cut him off in the e-mail and we made good our escape.

"As you know, Warner Brothers is calling it quits with Charlie Sheen - firing him from his hit show 'Two and a Half Men.' Producers rely on insurance for this type of situation," said a representative for "leading entertainment industry insurance broker Aon/Albert G. Ruben." The group's vice president, Lorrie McNaught, was seized with public-mindedness and was ready to offer assistance in the form of sound bites about insurance coverage available for stars, the amount of money Hollywood producers spend on insurance, and steps taken by studios to make sure the stars show up for work.

Sadly, we were overlooked by University of Southern California law professor Jack Lerner, who volunteered to Variety the observation that Warner Bros. Television's 11-page letter, explaining in glorious detail why it was giving Sheen the old heave-ho, "puts to rest the argument that this dispute was ever about anything other than Sheen's addiction, like creative differences or antagonism between Sheen and ['Men' co-creator/exec producer] Chuck Lorre."

In the letter, Warner Bros. cited an "incapacity" clause in Sheen's contract, a clause about "moral turpitude" and recent interviews in which Sheen vowed not to work with Lorre, by way of explaining why it was giving Sheen the hook.

We did, however, receive a generous offer from Samuel Charap, associate director for Russia and Eurasia at the Center for American Progress, offering to discuss how Sheen - oh, never mind. He wants to talk to us about Vice President Biden! Funny, we hadn't heard Biden was in the running to replace Sheen on "Two and a Half Men" - only John Stamos and Rob Lowe.

We also received a touching note from someone speaking on behalf of Adam Galinsky, "academic expert" from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Galinsky is the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at that Kellogg School of Management. His most recent research examined how levels of prenatal testosterone can affect bargaining behaviors.

We had never been offered the unsolicited help of a professor of testosteronology before. We were deeply moved.

Galinsky's research found that individual differences in prenatal testosterone predict the degree to which someone will defend their personal interest when their self-respect is threatened during the negotiation process. In short, those with higher levels of testosterone made lower return offers, after they had been on the receiving end of an unfair offer. Ergo, testosterone level predicts how people respond to unfairness.

Now this is a guy who would know about two and a half men!

Anyway, Professor Galinsky was offering to speak for free about how his research on testosterone levels relates to Sheen's behavior after his demand for $3 million per episode, the rep explained.

(Actually, Sheen said in a recent interview that he would come back to the show next season - "Men's" ninth - for his contract salary, which was reported to be nearly $2 millionish per episode, because he is a man of his word. But, if CBS and Warner Bros. thought he was going to come back for that kind of chump change to do a 10th season of the show, his price tag would go up to $3 million per episode, owing to how he'd been treated of late.)

We have not yet heard from any molecular biologists, investment advisers, decorators or dentists. There must be a piece of the Sheen story for you! Please contact The TV Column ASAP.

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